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Photo courtesy of Sundance TV

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Abigail Spencer stars as Amantha Holden, the sister who dedicated her life to getting her brother, Daniel (Aden Young) off of death row in the TV series “Rectify.”  I had the good fortune to talk with Abigail at the 3rd annual ATX Television Festival.

Mike:  Hi Abigail, great seeing you again! Let’s talk about “Rectify!”

Abigail:  Let’s do that!  I love talking about “Rectify.”

When we left off, things were not great for Daniel.

Abigail:  No they were not.  I was there for that day of shooting.  I watched all 6 episodes in a row with Aden and that scene at the end just wrecked me.  I went to the bathroom after that episode and there were six other women in there from the screening, all bailing their eyes out.  It really stirred something on a really deep level.  So when we come into season 2 we pick up pretty much right where we left off, just a few hours later.

What I love about the series is the first season was six episodes but that it was over on 4 or 5 days.

Abigail:  Yeah, the first week.

And so much has happened. This is a guy that has come back from…

Abigail: Being dead.

From death row.  And he has been released to come back to his hometown. You play his sister, who has basically devoted her whole life to trying to get her brother out. Talk about your character and her quest.

Abigail:  Well, I play Amantha Holden, Daniel’s little sister and his warrior.  The reason that Daniel is alive is because of Amantha’s determination.  He is alive because of the work she did to try and get him out. By finding the DNA evidence and by just her shill will. So what is interesting about season 2 is Daniel is alive and out.  He is trying to figure out who he is away from prison. So, Amantha is going to also have to figure out who she is without this quest that has made up her life.

Exactly, she hasn’t had a life.

Abigail:  Yes, she tried to go to college but she had to drop out.  She moved to Atlanta to be near the prison.  She got a job that gave her enough space and time to work on Daniel’s case. She would visit him every week, whether he showed up or not for the visits.  And she fell in love with the lawyer that handled the case.  Her life was completely wrapped up in Daniel. I think the big question we are going to explore is what if that portion of her life goes away. That could be a really tough cross to bear.


Photo courtesy of Sundance TV

She is almost alone in her support for her brother. There are so many people in the town that are bent on persecuting him again or worse. It must be tough to play that character because you are alone, both as an actress and a character.

Abigail:  It is tough.  Thank you for your empathy. It’s funny because a lot of people have been very empathetic to Amantha’s plight, and to me playing Amantha.  People say, playing her must be really hard. And it is really hard. I have to be careful not to go a little cuckoo, or feel like the world is against you. I have to work hard to keep those things separate. I have to make sure to leave the warrior spirit on set because it can be exhausting. But at the same time, it totally ignites me. It’s hard because even within the family, there is a certain amount of apathy. If she wasn’t who she is, nothing would probably get done. It’s an interesting question..what if she let it all go or can she let it all go. Can she let it all go?  I don’t know if she knows who she would be without it.  So yes, it is difficult to play this part as the actress and it’s a very passionate role to play.

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I think one of the things we will get to see in season two, is how Daniel will affect people.  That once they get to know who he has become their opinions of him will change.  Much like Tawney did in the first season.  Do you think that the people in the town will change?


Photo courtesy of Mike Mckinney

Abigail:  Here is what I find so interesting about the show. You can project something, you can know something. You can read something in the paper and it’s very easy to pass judgment because it’s not personal, because you don’t know the humanity or the human behind the story.  But once you know the human, things then get grey. I think that is going to happen as people get to know Daniel as he lives his life, things won’t be in black and white, things will get more grey. Even the case against Daniel has become very grey. Will we ever know the truth about what happened that night?  The case has become very grey because of all the humans that are involved and their agendas. I think as people get to know Daniel, they will project less and become more empathetic.

It’s such an interesting character study because he was so isolated in prison and now he out in the free world. Every day he lives out in the free world, he has to handle more and more.  He was in that prison for 20 years and he may want to go back to it, just because he knows how to live in there.

Abigail:  Yes, there defiantly was a stop in his growth when he was put into prison.  There was a study that was done that says, when you suffer a traumatic experience, your growth as a human being just stops. So it kind of like a teenager emerging into the world.  It’s a sort of a coming of age story. And I think as the town people get to know Daniel better, the audience will also get to know him better. We will get to see more of his time in prison, we will get to know him.  It’s an interesting show, because even on set, we all have our theories of did he do it or not? As you get to know Daniel, it gets more convoluted.


Photo courtesy of Sundance TV

So you shoot the series here in Georgia.  Talk about you experiences shooting in Georgia.

Abigail:  We shoot in a little town called Griffin, who has never had any major thing shot there(sic). There have been a few scenes of “Walking Dead” or a small movie pass through.  But we have our coffee shop, we’ve got our restaurant and our Kroger. We have our set which is next to the Alligator tanning factory, which supplies skins to some of the best fashion shops in the world. It’s been lovely but also a bit difficult, because we are so isolated and away from our families. It’s been difficult but also amazing because we really have become a family. And the people in the town have embraced us.  I now crave that simple lifestyle and it’s so beautiful there. When I went back to L.A., I kind of felt like Daniel getting out of prison. The city was so big and everything was so fast.

And you got to experience some snow.

Abigail:  Yes, two snow apocalypses. With snow and ice.  What’s interesting is when we left off in season one, it was like 115 degrees outside.  It was August and humid. And my hair was the size of a very large mushroom cloud. We came back to shoot season two and it was cold in January.

To change subjects, you came back to “How I Met Your Mother,” for their final season, where you got to play Blah-Blah one last time.

Abigail: Yes, we found out her name was Carol.  Who knew?  I sure didn’t know.

Was that fun going back to that set?  Because your character was in one of the most important episodes of the series where Lilly and Marshall had broken up and they get back together.

Abigail:  It’s so crazy.  I didn’t know that at the time.  It became a fan favorite.  I mean, it was 2007. I loved that episode, I thought it was brilliant. It was a super funny episode.  Yeah, I get stopped all the time and people go, “your that, um, what’s your name” and you go “exactly.”  It’s so wild to be on a show and your character doesn’t have a name, but her character was so memorable.  So, yeah, I got to come back for the final season.  And soon, I am going over to England, where they haven’t aired the finale yet, and I’m part of a special, where they interview me as one of the fan favorites.  So I’m part of this whole celebration of the show in England. For a one shot deal it’s been crazy.  And just on a personal note, it was important for me because I hadn’t done a lot of comedies, so it was the first time a lot of people in the industry saw me do comedy. I have gotten to do a lot more since, all due to Blah-Blah, a.k.a. Carol.

Thank you so much and I wish the show much success.

Abigail:  Thank you.

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